Premiership - Saracens seal top spot

Saracens' hard-fought 23-14 victory over Bath at Allianz Park ensured they finished top of the Aviva Premiership at the end of the regular season.

PA Sport

The home side were nowhere near their best, playing only in fits and starts, but still did enough to gain a home semi-final against Northampton next weekend.

Chris Ashton, Mako Vunipola and Owen Farrell scored tries for the hosts, with the rest of Sarries' points coming from the boot of Farrell. Rob Webber and Horacio Agulla crossed for Bath, with Tom Heathcote converting both.

Saracens were 11-0 up early on and looked like running away with the game but Bath were stubborn opponents who were in contention for the remainder of the match.

Farrell had a mixed match, scoring 13 of the Saracens points but missing with three kicks which would have provided his side with a more comprehensive triumph. In addition, the centre picked up a yellow card which was the catalyst for Bath to get a foothold in the game.

The visitors scored two tries but Heathcote missed with two easy penalties to extinguish any hopes of Heineken Cup rugby for Bath next season.

Saracens rested Alex Goode and were without Brad Barritt due to an ankle injury but were able to include their three players who have been recently selected for the British and Irish Lions.

Simon Taylor and Michael Claassens were able to make their final appearances for Bath but Stephen Donald was not as fortunate, being a late withdrawal with a rib injury.

Donald's replacement, Heathcote, had the first chance for points but he missed with his 30-metre penalty attempt.

After 11 minutes, Saracens took the lead. A lineout take from Alistair Hargreaves on the Bath 22 was driven forward with some pace, putting the visitors rapidly on the back foot. This provided Neil De Kock with a simple opportunity to put Ashton in for the first try.

Bath suffered two more blows when first Guy Mercer was yellow-carded for denying Saracens a clear try-scoring opportunity and then, from the resulting penalty, Farrell extended the lead to 8-0 at the end of the first quarter.

A second try for Saracens soon followed with Vunipola forcing his way over from close range, but once again Farrell was unable to convert.

Almost immediately, Saracens looked to have scored another try when Ashton crossed the line only for the television match official to rule that Vunipola's final offload to Ashton was marginally forward.

On the half-hour, Farrell received a yellow card for a dangerous high tackle on Heathcote which coincided with the return of Mercer to give Bath some respite.

They first stemmed the tide before taking advantage of their numerical superiority with Webber finishing off a lineout drive for the try which Heathcote converted.

Early in the second half, Heathcote had a chance to further reduce the arrears but badly mis-hit a 30-metre penalty and Bath were soon made to pay for their profligacy.

De Kock made another defence-splitting break to send Farrell over for a converted try and, at 20-7 with half an hour remaining, Saracens were in control of the match.

Bath were not prepared to lie down, though, picking up their second try when Agulla brushed aside some weak defence from the Saracens for a score which Heathcote converted.

Replacement Tom Biggs almost scored another but was narrowly foiled following a splendid kick and chase before a second penalty from Farrell extended Saracens' lead to 23-14 with 10 minutes remaining, and they comfortably held on.

View Comments (0)